Of The Quarrel, The West Indies Search For The Intangible Of Winning Mentality > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Out of contention, West Indies seek intangible winning mindset
In sport, as in life, failure is a constant companion. Yet not all failure is the same. There can be glorious, heroic failure such as Carlos Brathwaite - almost, but not quite, getting West Indies over the line against New Zealand last weekend. Then, there is the humbling, comprehensive, barely-in-the-game-at-all failure. West Indies' defeat to England in Southampton was an example of that. But where to rank their failure at this World Cup given the men from the Caribbean have had a fair mix of both?
In simple terms, of course, they are out of the competition already and have won just one match out of seven. Their batting has shown glimpses of sparkle but has not been consistent or hardnosed enough. The bowlers have worked hard but lacked variation and adaptability. Generally, they have been out fielded against most of their opponents. But, amongst those general themes of disappointment, have been shafts of hope for the future. A core of young, talented players have shown they deserve to be persevered with.
Captain Jason Holder and Evin Lewis are 27 while Sunil Ambris is 26. Shai Hope is 25, Fabian Allen 24. Nicholas Pooran is 23 years-old. Shimron Hetmyer and Oshane Thomas are 22. Sheldon Cottrell, their player of the tournament, is not yet 30 either. All of these players have, as a minimum, another World Cup in them - and the majority more than that - and all aside from Ambris have made at least one telling contribution so far in this tournament. (Ambris has only played one game after being a call-up for Andre Russell.)
And arguably, West Indies should be in the semi-final mix. They lost to Australia by 15 runs, capitulating in a gettable chase they should have seen through. Brathwaite's hundred against New Zealand could, and probably should, have got them over the line at Old Trafford as well. Against Bangladesh in Taunton, they made 321 but then their one-dimensional bowling was smashed to smithereens by Shakib Al Hasan. All three games saw them get into positions to win and then squander them.
These weren't drubbings. These weren't games where they were outplayed. These were close matches that with a bit more nous, a bit more experience, a bit more thought, could have been won. That was the subject of a long team meeting in the dressing room after the India match where the squad and management discussed what had gone wrong in their campaign.
"I think we didn't seize the key moments in games," head coach Floyd Reiffer said before his team's game against Sri Lanka in Durham. "You look back at our tournament, we played well against Pakistan. We had Australia on the ropes. New Zealand as well. We need to seize the key moments in the game. At crucial times we dropped a few chances. And then collectively we didn't bat properly. It's just small things that we didn't do, the one percenters that didn't we do well. These are the sort of things we discussed as a team. The players are not comfortable with their performances."
Often, a lack of talent is harder to address than making that talent work better. If you have quality ingredients, you at least have the potential to bake the best damn cake in the world even if it takes you a few goes to realise you shouldn't put a Swiss roll in the oven for six hours. But if you can't get your hands on any jam, you're never going to be able to make the Swiss roll of your dreams no matter how clued up you might be.
The challenge for West Indies cricket now is to get the structures and coaching in place to challenge and cajole more out of the players they have. "We have good talent in the Caribbean in the system," Reifer said. "We have to make sure that we nurture that talent very well. When we get back to the Caribbean it's important that we put guys in the environment and put them in a tough situation where they have to train and train hard and prepare and prepare well. To create leaders is something we have got to focus on in the Caribbean as well in our franchise and first-class cricket."
The notion that disappointing tournaments can be used as a springboard for the future is a well worn one. England used their 2015 failure as a catalyst to change their whole one-day philosophy. West Indies probably don't have to do anything quite so drastic given they have arguably got more of the building blocks in place than Eoin Morgan had after England's capitulation in Australia and New Zealand four years ago.
Instead, West Indies' selectors need to keep faith with this core of players while adding a few more in key positions. Opener John Campbell looks a ready made replacement for when Chris Gayle retires while Keemo Paul has already played in the IPL and could turn into a significant all-rounder. Allen's left-arm spin is serviceable enough but West Indies really do need a frontline spinner who can take wickets. Ashley Nurse's off-spin simply does not fit that bill. They also need more athleticism in the field.
Above all, though, they need to find that intangible winning mindset. "We are out, but there is still a lot of cricket to play after the World Cup," Reifer said. "It's important for us to find the winning formula going forward. We want to create that winning culture. It has to start from somewhere. We had some good games in the World Cup, but we just need to get the one percenters right. Once we get the one percenters right, then you will see we will get the results.
"Our future is good," added Reifer. "I'm confident in these youngsters that going forward we can bring West Indies cricket back to where it belongs at the top. Yes, it is unfortunate we didn't get to the final four in this competition, but going forward I'm happy from what I have seen. We have a lot of young guys that we can mould and build a strong unit going forward."
The challenge is there for this group of West Indian players. It is there for the likes of Holder, Hope and Cottrell. If they can get more out of their individual talent, collectively do the basics more consistently and if they get the backing from selectors and coaches they deserve, there is plenty of hope for the future. This tournament could indeed be a springboard. It is up to all parties in West Indies cricket to make it so.
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